Apple Patents Waterproofing Method 'For Shielding Electronic Components from Moisture'

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent application created by Apple, detailing a method for the extensive waterproofing of various components within a device, possibly an iPhone, thus creating a completely waterproof smartphone without the need of a special case (via Patently Apple).

Originally filed in September of 2013, the patent application describes a "hydrophobic coating" to be layered onto integral parts within a device, like its printed circuit board. Apple describes achieving this using a "plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process" that would adhere the coating substance onto the surface of the printed circuit board in such a way as to not take up much additional room in the already small casing of a smartphone.

waterproof patent

In the bigger picture, immersing electronic devices in water generally has predictably negative results. Through testing it has been determined that high voltage power components are more likely to short or malfunction after only brief exposure to liquids or moisture. More specifically, exposed metal areas having high voltage differentials in close proximity can easily experience short circuit events when corrosion or water immersion bridges the gap between such areas.

By providing an insulating layer or barrier around these highly susceptible parts, water resistance can be substantially increased without obscuring functional openings leading into a device housing of a particular electronic device. A thin hydrophobic (i.e., water resistant) conformal coating having a thickness between at least one and ten microns can be applied to a substrate using a plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) process. The PACVD process charges the surface of the substrate so that the coating can be bonded to the charged surface.

Though not completely waterproof as Apple's new patent intends a device to be, Tim Cook recently stated that the company's upcoming Apple Watch will in fact be a bit more water resistant than previously thought. He stated that he wears his personal Apple Watch everywhere, "even in the shower." If so, the Watch will be the company's first device with such a water resistant claim.

While the patent application doesn't specifically state what device the waterproof process could be attributed to, it's easy to see the company reasoning the method for use on iPhone and iPad. Although, like with all other patents, the practicality of a completely waterproof iPhone launching anytime soon is highly unlikely, but it's always an interesting glimpse behind the scenes regarding what the company may be considering for its future.

Top Rated Comments

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74 months ago
Great.. I guess the Samsung Galaxy S7 is going to be waterproof again.. :rolleyes:
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
74 months ago

Did Liquipel not patent this? They've been showing off the same technology at CES for a few years now...


I was wondering the same thing - how can this really deserve a patent when there are already similar solutions.

Further - liquipel seems more comprehensive than isolated to specific areas


Do people still not understand how patents work? I'm sure Liquipel patented their method for waterproofing. And here we see Apple patenting their own method. Ideas (like waterproofing a device) can't be patented. Only methods to do so can be patented.

Ideally there will be hundreds of different patented methods to accomplish an idea (from many different companies/entrepreneurs/innovators) and the best one wins in the marketplace. Then when the patents expire, humanity gets to use them all.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
74 months ago

My Xoeria Z3 is waterproof. Why is Apple lagging here?

In my experience in the tech world, saying anything is waterproof suddenly gives consumers the attitude that the phone can be bashed about, freely used in the shower/bath, and generally they get angrier when it fails.

To advertise a product as 'waterproof' suddenly opens up a whole new world of problems - if the phone fails because the internal components are liquid damaged, would that be covered under warranty? Would there be grounds to go through consumer rights, because the phone was advertised as waterproofed and yet was damaged by water? Would liquid damage still not be covered under warranty, in which case why advertise it as being waterproof?

If liquid damage is covered under warranty on a phone advertised as being waterproof, then that means the manufacturer is accepting a much larger liability -- one that could simply be avoided by waterproofing the phone, but not advertising or confirming that this is the fact.

With the greatest of respect, Sony using and heavily advertising waterproofing on their Xperia Z3 as one of many features to try and stand out in a profit-struggling market (Android phones) is very different to the consistently top-selling iPhone suddenly becoming waterproofed. If Apple reject one warranty claim, then everybody will hear about it, the news will go ballistic, and they'll probably have a lawsuit on their hands. You must appreciate the difference.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
74 months ago

Did Liquipel not patent this? They've been showing off the same technology at CES for a few years now...


If you read the patent, it describes a method for waterproofing, not a product for waterproofing.

Basically they give a negative or positive charge to a component, and then apply the plasma process with the opposite charge to create an extremely thin layer of protection.

This isn't a "we patented waterproofing" patent, which would not be valid anywhere. This is a patent for Apple's specific method of implementing waterproofing.

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Do people still not understand how patents work? I'm sure Liquipel patented their method for waterproofing. And here we see Apple patenting their own method. Ideas (like waterproofing a device) can't be patented. Only methods to do so can be patented.

Ideally there will be hundreds of different patented methods to accomplish an idea (from many different companies/entrepreneurs/innovators) and the best one wins in the marketplace. Then when the patents expire, humanity gets to use them all.


This guy gets it!

I don't understand why people don't get what a patent is.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
74 months ago

Source? I never knew this.


Sounds like he's trolling.

Reminds me when people thought that iOS 7 (or was it 8?) made the phone unshatterable.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
74 months ago
Just alerting you to the typo, hydroponic below is of course a typo for hydrophobic.

Keep up the good work x

Originally filed in September of 2013, the patent application describes a "hydroponic coating" to be layered onto integral parts within a device, like its printed circuit board. Apple describes achieving this using a "plasma-assisted
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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